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Friday, 21 March 2014

Ukraine: oligarch Firtash out on bail but still wanted by US | beyondbrics #EuroMaidan

Ukraine: oligarch Firtash out on bail but still wanted by US | beyondbrics:

After paying a record bail of $174m, Russia-linked Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash – arrested last week at the request of US law enforcement – was released from an Austrian prison on Friday on condition that he does not leave the country.

“The last week has been a testing time for my family and me. I would like to thank personally all of my friends and colleagues who have supported me through this difficult period,” he was quoted as saying in a statement upon release.

But Firtash is not off the hook yet.

As the statement confirms, the FBI is still seeking the arrest of this influential billionaire, who has been a partner of Russia’s Gazprom in the multi-billion-dollar business of supplying natural gas to Ukraine and European markets. That much is clear. Less clear is what is driving the FBI hunt for Firtash.

One theory has it that Firtash has close business connections to people close to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president. Arresting Firtash and coercing him to reveal unsavoury business activities by Putin’s inner-most circle could be used as leverage on Moscow after its annexation of Crimea.

Another theory is that the US has long sought Firtash’s arrest because of his reported ties to FBI-wanted mobster Semyon Mogilevich.

It is likely that both considerations play a part. And Firtash’s “difficult period” is not over yet.

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